Plane covered in Ash (REUTERS/STRNew)

LAN Airlines, Chile's flagship carrier and Latin America's biggest airline company, announced that it will resume flights into and out of Buenos Aires' two international airports this afternoon and restore full service by tomorrow.

Aerolineas Argentinas SA, Argentina's biggest carrier, and its sister company Austral, will also resume operations after 6 p.m. local time, according to a statement on the government's website.

Residents of Buenos Aires woke up on Thursday to a thin dusting of ash coating their cars and lining their streets from the eruption this past weekend at Chile's Puyehue volcano.  By Friday afternoon, shifting winds had cleared the cloud of ash from the skies over the capital.

Because volcanic ash is extremely abrasive and can damage a plane's engine, air travel into and out of Argentina's two biggest airports serving the capital had been suspended for a second consecutive day.  Both Ezeiza and Aeroparque airports were closed, but are now open again.

On Tuesday, winds blew ash from the Chilean volcano in a widening arc, grounding most air travel to and from Argentina.  Flights resumed for a short period, but by Thursday all air traffic was again halted.  The ash cloud prompted airlines to cancel about 320 flights into and out of the two airports in Buenos Aires, according to the terminals' operator, Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 SA.

Geologists in Chile warned that the Cordon Caulle volcano could keep erupting for several weeks and this may not be the end of air traffic delays.

The Puyehue volcano is located about 540 miles (870km) south of Chile's capital Santiago in the Andes mountain range. Saturday's eruption prompted Chilean authorities to order the relocation of almost 4,000 people as the volcano sent a 10-kilometer-high ash cloud into the atmosphere.  The winds carried much of this ash across the Andes into Argentina where international resort towns like Bariloche were blanketed in a thick grey film.

Volcanologist Jorge Muñoz of Chile's National Geology and Mines Service said that the eruption is considered to be moderate so far, but that could change.

The ash cloud disrupted flights across South America including flights in and out of Uruguay.  Over in southern Brazil, arrivals and departures from the city of Porto Alegre were canceled at 10:40 a.m. local time on Friday.

Airports closer to the volcano in Argentina's south, including those serving the communities of Bariloche, Neuquen and Trelew, will remain closed until further notice. 

As the volcano continues to be active, the reopening of the air terminals isn't expected until the safety conditions necessary to operate are guaranteed, Argentina's Transportation Secretariat said in a statement.

The disruption to air travel forced Argentina's government to cancel a two-day meeting of South American finance ministers and central bankers that was scheduled to start on Thursday.


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